Bartleby and Benito Cereno
Herman Melville, 1853 and 1856
(This slender volume by Dover contains two of Melville's best-known stories. We have developed a set of discussion questions below for each story.)
When a New York lawyer needs to hire another copyist, it is Bartleby who responds to his advertisement, and arrives "pallidly neat, pitiably respectable, incurably forlorn." At first a diligent employee, he soon begins to refuse work, saying only "I would prefer not to." So begins the story of Bartleby—passive to the point of absurdity yet extremely disturbing—which rapidly turns from farce to inexplicable tragedy.
Accompanying "Bartleby" is a second short story, "Benito Cereno," a harrowing tale of slavery and revolt aboard a Spanish ship—and regarded by many as Melville's finest short story. (Adapted from the Penguin edition.)
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